I want to tell you a secret

Shh, come closer.

I haven’t written a blog post in four months. The observant among you will have spotted that already.

This isn’t down to a lack of inspiration nor any artistic crisis of temperament.

Rather I have had a Christmas deadline on another writing project and so every ounce of creative energy was spent on getting that completed and delivered. And now that it is done I am back and able to tell you about it.

Are you ready?

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I have written a story.

A beginning, middle and end.

And then I got it printed into a book to give to my nephews for Christmas.

The other part of the secret? I’ll just say this quietly.

I’m really proud of myself.

Oh not because it’s any kind of masterpiece. J.K Rowling can sleep soundly in her bed at night. Michael Morpurgo need not fear me snapping at his heals any time soon. The one copy that currently exists hasn’t even been proofread and is currently sporting several spelling mistakes.

No, the reason I am most pleased is because I got it DONE.

This was a self-imposed deadline and for me those are usually flexible affairs, all the more so if no one else knows they exist. But this was a story I wanted my nephews to hear, with lessons about kindness that I want them to learn, carry and practice throughout their lives. And once I was brave enough to crack open the lid just a little, to let some trusted friends see what was inside, their encouragement spurred me on to the finish. (Thank you Kirsty and Anna!)

But the main reason for me telling you about this now is not simply about explaining my absence from here, but rather because I feel galvanised at this annual time of setting goals and making resolutions because I now know that sometimes they actually happen. Sometimes you do finish what you start. Sometimes you can achieve what you thought was impossible. But for that to happen it takes three things – or at least it did for me.

Firstly it needs to become your priority. Whatever you want to achieve has to make its way much further up your list of things to do, and this means that other items on the list will have to take a lesser place. You can’t do everything and something’s got to give. For me, over the last few months, it’s been writing blog posts. I just didn’t have the creative energy to do both. At first I struggled with this but eventually made my peace with my priorities and cracked on with it.

Secondly you need encouragement. If you’re setting out to achieve something that feels daunting to you then you’re going to need some cheerleaders along the way. There may be times when you tire, moments when you doubt yourself and your ability to get across the line, days when you’re just fed up to the back teeth with the whole darned thing. Don’t stop. But make sure you’ve put a few people around you who will urge you on and keep you moving forward. They will be as much a part of you getting to the end as you are.

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And thirdly, accept the fact that whatever you’re aiming for won’t be perfect, but better to get it finished than never have it see the light of day. My personal guide in this process has been Elizabeth Gilbert and her brilliant book Big Magic. On more than one occasion I came to a key paragraph or two at just the right time, none more so than a section called Done Is Better Than Good, the final few lines of which are as follows:

Because the truth of the matter is, most people don’t finish things! Look around you, the evidence is everywhere: People don’t finish. They begin ambitious projects with the best of intentions, but then they get stuck in a mire of insecurity and doubt and hairsplitting….and they stop.

So if you can just complete something – merely complete it! – you’re already miles ahead of the pack right there.

You may want your work to be perfect, in other words; I just want mine to be finished.

 

These words gave me the permission to take my eyes off my doubts and fears, and instead refocus on my original motivation and get the work DONE.

So what next?

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2017 beckons.

365 days of possibility.

Plenty of time to achieve something if I set my mind to it.

If you set your mind to it.

There’s just one question – what shall we do?

 

 

Christmas Cleanse

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I am in the middle of a serious post-Christmas cleanse. I’m not talking about any kind of detox, I mean ridding the house of all the wonderful, rich and tasty Christmas food ahead of the obligatory fresh start that is looming.

And by cleanse, I mean eat.

Be gone creamy stilton and brie (on the top of a digestive with a smattering of plum chutney). Away with you festive beverages, washing down some lovely artisan bread and seasonally flavoured dipping sauce. No more of you and your delicious ice cream Messrs Ben and Jerry!

Much like a marathon runner carb loading before a big race, I am feeding myself up, giving me just that little more weight to lose with the new regime – because in for a penny, in for a pound (or two), right? And so I am taking the opportunity afforded by Storm Frank to stay at home and commit myself to this cause like a pro. Two straight days of feasting – all for a good cause.

But it’s not only health and fitness that I am considering. (Despite what you’ve just read, I am truly considering this!) Last year I was struck by something a friend said when she spoke of asking God for a word or phrase as she went into each New Year. A few months ago another friend told me about how she and her husband prayerfully reconsidered all of their commitments afresh at the start of each year, and asked God where he wanted them to focus their time and energy in the twelve months that lay ahead.

And so rather than making any kind of new year resolutions, I am trying to take this time at the turn of the year, to both reflect on what God has done for me, in me, through me (and in spite of me) over the past twelve months, and to ask what he wants to say to me as I head into 2016. Are there things he wants me to let go of or lay down? Are there places in my life where he wants to stretch me or have me reach further? Is there an area he’s asking me to step into – a burgeoning friendship, an idea whose time has come, a new place to serve? Or is there a part of my life that needs some attention and this is the time to start working on it?

As I ponder and pray over these things I’ll write down what comes to mind and try to keep track of them through the year. Some areas in our lives need a degree of accountability if we are to change, and so I have indeed signed up to a proper health regime, handing over my cold hard cash for some guidance and people to journey with. This isn’t the obligatory January diet, but rather something I feel that God has been nudging me about for quite a while and this is the time to make a start. It fits in to the overarching challenge that I feel God has put on my heart for this year. I’ll maybe tell you a bit more about it another time – we’ll see how I go!

What about you? Is this something you already do? If so then I’d love to hear what that looks like in your life. Or perhaps this is the first time you’ve thought about this and would like to give it a go. This isn’t about getting everything in place by midnight, but rather taking the next few days to ask God what he has to say to you, things he might want to teach you, areas where he’d like to stretch you, if you’ll let him. If you need some inspiration to get you going, Anne Voskamp has a beautiful printable sheet with twelve areas to work through (along with some beautiful thoughts on this topic). For me that was a bit too much and I’ve stuck with one main theme applied to a few areas of my life, but perhaps it’ll spark some divine inspiration for you.

As you reflect on 2015 I hope that you can see God alongside you in both the triumphs and challenges, and as you ask him about the year to come I pray he’ll whisper gently, encouraging you, moulding and shaping you, guiding and directing you to become more of the person he created you to be.

Happy New Year!